In late December, as Austin once again returned to Stage 5, we once again closed, only this time, no one else did.

For us, the decision was already made. We had discussed with our core team, in the weeks prior, that should we again (inevitably) arrive at our City’s highest risk level for the COVID-19 pandemic, we would immediately close our Austin storefront to the public. That is what the guidelines state to do. There is no mincing words, no spectrum for interpretation, that course of action is clearly and unequivocally stated.

What I did not anticipate was that no one else would heed that guidance. Suddenly, I was jolted back to May when I first was confronted with this impossible choice as a small business owner in the state of Texas. Here, it's our choice, and implicit in that choice? Decide which you will prioritize more: revenue or the safety of both the public and your team. We opted for safety, and in the process, we have foregone essential revenue. 

These past weeks, I have understood why so many are participating in the gaslighting that is remaining open. In these circumstances, with this set of variables, it is the only road to survival. 

The pressures have remained unrelenting - rent, payroll, insurance, health benefits, materials, utilities. In an ideal world, we would be encouraged to close and supported financially for the duration of that closure. But that is not our reality. PPP, EIDL, those blessed and rare gestures have been used up on exactly what they were intended for and are gone. And now?

Right now, in this moment, I can hear the mantra of these 10 months: Pivot. The thing about pivoting? A pivot that begins as a sprint cannot be stretched to a marathon at no cost to the host. My back is tweaked, my neck is sore. If I read one more post, hear one more pep talk or watch one more webinar about pivoting being the silver bullet to surviving this, I will fucking scream. How do you think we have made it these past 10 months? We’ve pivoted like a yogi playing Twister. 

So how do we make it to the Summer or the Fall like this? We could reopen before Austin moves back to Stage 4, encourage our community to leave their house and idly browse in the extremely expensive square footage that is our storefront. We could overrule our team’s legitimate concerns for their personal safety with a refrain of “just be sure to wash your hands”. We could pretend that everyone will actually remain 6 feet apart at all times (have you shopped IRL? That doesn't happen), pretend that a plexi shield and a cloth mask are bulletproof even as the US death count is currently just shy of 400,000 and the vaccine roll out progresses at a glacial pace. 

It is not lost on me that we are privileged as a business because we are in a position to operate with masks on, that we have a product that is tangible and can be shipped, that our business model already incorporates eCommerce. There are so many who are so much worse off, and my heart aches for them. There are also many businesses that are heavily resourced and have moved through this entire period with a “let them eat cake” attitude, unabashedly exposing their staff and the patrons they serve to a level of risk that is nothing short of wildly negligent. Their pursuit of the bottom line is not survival, it is business as usual with side no fucks given. This period has provided consumers with a rare opportunity to get to know exactly what kind of values are at the core of the businesses they frequent,  and I would urge everyone to really pay attention.

I don’t know what’s next for us. I am trying to lean into hope, to remain committed to the beauty, sustainability, aesthetic pleasures and ethical commitments that led me to create MBS. We have so much in development, so much still to do, so many ways still to grow and do more and better. 

It’s a prayer and a wish, it’s the air that I breath week in and week out: to just weather this so we can get on with the real work. To no longer be fixated on surviving so we can begin thriving. 

It’s a prayer and a wish I am holding for all of us.

January 18, 2021 — Miranda Bennett

Comments

Alexis Murray said:

MBS team: I read this and I feel your pain. And selfishly I desperately want for your business to survive, if only so that I can patronize it in person someday when it is safe for me to board a plane again. But obviously it is about more than me (and others like me) being able to buy minimalistic, elegant, comfortable and ethically made garments designed to last a really long time. It is about you and your team and YOUR ABILITY TO MAKE A LIVING. And in this Covid era where the wheat of honest worthy businesses is being relentlessly separated from the chaff of the superficial excess that skated by in the “before”, it would be so depressing if a company like yours was to succumb to the necessary contraction of our economy right now. Because I do believe that what you do is essential. You clothe women of all sizes and shapes in garments that make them feel okay (even good!) in their own bodies. You use only the best materials and your designs are timeless. You resolutely and unapologetically charge a fair price for the products you sell, and in doing so you allow a few lucky people to make a living and a life. What you do REALLY matters, and I am taking the time out of my day to say so.

I alone cannot save your business. Yes, I hope to add at least one MBS piece to my wardrobe this year – a dress (not sure which one!) which will be a treat for myself for my 50th birthday. Sadly, it will be my SECOND Covid birthday, and I most certainly will not be spending it as I had always planned – on a trip with my sister, somewhere dusty and desert-y like Santa Fe. But my hope is that she and I (and all of us) will stay healthy and survive until the point when we CAN take that trip. And my hope for MBS is the same – that you will stay healthy and survive until things are better. And the only advice I feel compelled to give you is this: continue to communicate with your community and let them know how much they matter. The kind of people who buy MBS are the kind of people who will be forever loyal if they know that they are loved.

Stay safe and well & I am sending lots of positive energy.

- Alexis

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